A substantial volunteer effort took place at Two Hearted airstrip (6Y5) during the last two weeks of October. RAF supporter Jerry Ness donated his time and use of his equipment to re-grade a significant portion of the airstrip, with Michigan Liaison Brad Frederick, Leon Everhart and Mike Hintz also contributing time and energy to the project.
Frederick explains that Two Hearted airstrip, 6Y5 is closed until the State approves this recent safety rehabilitation.
The project gained leverage with an RAF grant award, and RAF supporter Jeff Littmann’s substantial matching donation. Then, the physical work began. Autumn brings cold weather to the shores of Lake Superior, but that didn’t thwart the crew of volunteers. The crew hauled equipment 3½ hours to the airstrip including a large bucket loader, road grader, skid loader, roller/compactor, and straw chopper. In total about 800 feet of runway was smoothed, topsoil was replaced, tilled, seeded, mulched and compacted, all by October 27. RAF supporter Mike Hintz brought up his fifth wheel camper, “which turned out to be jobsite headquarters and the all important cooking center. A major shout out to the wives who sent enough food to keep the crew fed for the entire project,” Frederick said.
“We appreciate Richard and Kathy Robinson for the use of their Rainbow Lodge facilities. If not for them, this could not have happened. We cannot thank everyone enough for all that was accomplished by this huge volunteer effort,” Frederick added.
“I am both amazed at the amount of work that was done and humbled by the generosity of our volunteers,” said RAF Director Jeff Russell.
The airstrip was built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps. Originally only about 1,600 feet long, it’s on a bluff overlooking where the Big Two Hearted River flows into Lake Superior’s rocky shoreline in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. A State Forest campground was built on the shoreline, and the privately-owned Rainbow Lodge was developed to serve recreational visitors.
In 2012, Frederick recognized the airstrip’s recreational value, and started working on reopening it. The RAF negotiated leases with both the Michigan Dep’t of Natural Resources and the Rainbow Lodge for property to lengthen the airstrip. The work was suspended when a 21,000-acre forest fire devastated the region and Rainbow Lodge.
“We were able to reopen the extended airstrip in 2017,” Frederick said. “It’s now 2,200 feet long. It was rough and undulating as it had always been, but the State granted a license,” he added. After an aircraft incident and pilot complaints about the roughness, the State Aeronautics commission decided not to issue a license for 2020.
The State will inspect Two Hearted airstrip to determine licensing status, after which the RAF hopes to be able to announce its reopening in 2022.